Reading: Alma Garcia’s Chicana Feminist Thought (1)

Please address the discussion questions for the following readings by replying to this post.  You do not have to answer all the questions, but be sure to demonstrate your familiarity with the reading.

El Plan de Aztlán

Alma GarciaChicana Feminist Thought (see Readings Page)

  • ”Introduction” (1-16)
  • ”The Woman of La Raza” by Enriqueta Longeaux Vasquez (29-31)
  • “Our Feminist Heritage” by Marta Cortera (41-44)

What do you think of when you think of the 1960s and 1970s? How do these readings fit in with or change your impressions?

Enriqueta Vasquez’s “The Woman of La Raza” was written in response to the same conference, the First National Chicano Liberation Youth Conference in March of 1969, where “El Plan de Aztlán” was written and adopted.  What connections can you see between the two documents?  What sort of conflict, if any, do you read into them? How did women of color respond to the civil rights movement (both Black Nationalism and the Chicano Movement)?  Why was it important that Marta Cortera “found” feminism with Mexican roots?

Alma Garcia discusses a series of Chicano movements in New Mexico (for land rights), California (for farmworkers, education and against the war in Vietnam) and Texas (political rights), among others.  How do you think the differences between these movements and their participants impacted each region’s Chicano movement?

Garcia also writes about Chicano Nationalism (Chicanismo) and the depiction of the “Ideal Chicana.”  What are the problems associated with such an idealized image?  Does it relate to the notion of a feminism based on “multiple oppressions”?

How did Chicanas organize themselves? What were the mechanisms and how was writing important to their organizations?


Reading: Alma Garcia’s Chicana Feminist Thought (1) — 10 Comments

  1. Chicanas organized and implemented various methods to resist gender tensions and contradictions within the Chicano movement and their very own communities. In order to come as a collective and surpass racial and gender discrimination, Chicana feminists found the need to come together and develop a feminist ideology deriving from their experiences. They pressured editorial boards in Chicano publications to “publish their feminist writings” (Garcia, 8). Yet another method was creating their own feminist publications. Feminist issues were published in the CSU Long Beach newspaper, called “Hijas de Cuauhtemoc.” They also created their own conferences and workshops were debates on sexual orientation, political strategies, goals and objectives would take place (Garcia, 9). In particular to sexual orientation within the Chicana feminist movement was something that was addressed because Chicanas who were “heterosexual” wanted to feel liberated, but at the same time Chicana lesbians wanted to feel liberated from that female and male binary. | On the other hand, El Plan de Aztlan and “The Woman of La Raza” both advocate for the unity of one people. El Plan de Aztlan is more nationalistic and seems very male oriented, and it is clearly demonstrated in words such as “Chicano(s),” and “brotherhood.” I can also see that “The Woman of La Raza” was a response to that male centered “plan” and focuses more on the woman (who may be heterosexual) who is a mother, has children, needs to find a job because she has recently divorced, etc. She speaks the unity of the family (as Chicana/os), as humanity, benefitting from social justice, but rarely, if anything, is written about Chicana lesbians, or gays, including them in this mobilization for their humaness as well.

  2. Q–What do you think of when you think of the 1960s and 1970s? How do these readings fit in with or change your impressions?
    A–When I think of the 1960 and 1970 I think of women as house-wives there to take care of their husband and children. Hearing stories from my own mother women were the minority striving to become more than their depiction. In the readings, I felt it changed my impression because I see more drive in the women, than what I originally concluded. In Marta Cortera’s article she describes how women made major contributions to education, politics, and other fields, this show how the women strove to make a difference and how they attempted to fight for equality amongst men. In Vasquez’s article she describes the major struggles involved with being an independent woman with a family and to me this depicts courage, the women are leaving everything they know behind to start a new life. So I change my impression that women may have been house-wives but sometimes not by choice and they fought to change their situations.

    Q–Enriqueta Vasquez’s “The Woman of La Raza” was written in response to the same conference, the First National Chicano Liberation Youth Conference in March of 1969, where “El Plan de Aztlán” was written and adopted. What connections can you see between the two documents?
    A–Between the two articles I see a connection with women struggle to connect with society on their own as an independent. The article by Vasquez lists the major struggles with women being on their own with a family and El Plan de Aztlan describes what women need to succeed; how they need the support of the community, the right education, and self-defense for all.

    Q–Why was it important that Marta Cortera “found” feminism with Mexican roots?
    A–I believe it was important that Cortera found feminism with Mexican roots because she found connections with both Chicana and Mexican Feminism, and how they are so similar that most individuals confuse the two. She finds feminism in Mexican roots describes how the wars and revolutions helped women gain the respect of men and how they slowly gained more independence.

  3. I know I have heard of the Chicano Movement, but I do not think I had ever paid close attention to the lack of female presence in the way it is presented. As Garcia points out, the publications that came from the Chicano movement did not have a representative number of women on their editorial boards. I have learned some of the history of the 1960’s and the 1970’s and while it is so obvious now, I had never quite questioned what gender all the historical context came from, but now I see the absence of women in the historical publications that we learn from today. Even in Chicano studies today, little attention and focus has been given to the female roles which I think also clearly shows this “silent” role that women have had throughout history.

    Garcia also mentions different regions in which different Chicano movements were taking place and how each faced a slightly different issue. I think this shows the many different fields in which Chicanos felt they were being treated unfairly. In New Mexico they discussed land rights while in California they were speaking up for farm workers and education and in Texas another set of issues. While each of these regions had a different set of participants, I think the fact that they were each facing a different struggle might have had a greater impact on society because they each composed one piece of the puzzle in the whole that was the Chicano Movement. They each took a different perspective but ultimately they were all seeking a greater equality.

  4. Both documents list particular types of people. “The Woman of La Raza” describes them in further detail to explain that what these women have lived through is more than enough to offer help in the movement instead of agreeing that the “Chicana woman does not want to be liberated.” “El Plan de Aztlan” describes specific goals for a broad range of people, e.g. the barrio, the campo, the ranchero, the writer, the artist, the poet etc. and the importance of keeping the family traditions for the sake of the culture. Instead of bringing out social injustices withing the culture to light, the “Plan” celebrates them by attempting to carry over Mexican cultural traditions to the movimiento in the United States.

    I believe that the difference between the movements allowed the Chicano Movement consciousness to expand and cover multiple issues. It demonstrated the widespread need for civil rights and social equality not only to those opposing the struggle, but to the people in the movement itself. The fact that El Movimiento was a national issue affected each region’s Chicano movement by strengthening it and promoting it past a local or state level.

    Writing was, in fact, part of the organization for Chicanas and the feminist movement. Publications like Regeneracion and El Grito del Norte carried articles and other works by Chicanas involved in the struggle. Like Garcia says, the magazines and newspapers functioned as “mobilizing tools” as well as representations of the development of Chicana feminist thought. Due to the fact that they faced opposition from both Chicanos and Chicanas bent on keeping the traditional roles of Mexican and Mexican American women in the culture, the resistance faced many perspectives that opposed their ideals. Thus Chicanas retaliated with writings that were offered publicly with details of their oppression and their fight for equality.

  5. The connection I saw between “The Women of La Raza” and “El Plan de Aztlan” was that they both emphasize independence. In Vasquez’s article, she mentions that certain unfortunate circumstances caused Chicanas to become independent in order to support their families and themselves. “El Plan de Aztlan” discusses the independence of the mestizo nation and the key steps to achieve liberation. I also noticed that they both talked about economic control. “El Plan de Aztlan” asks Chicanos to take economic control of their lives, while Vasquez’s article describes Chicanas that actually do take economic control after being divorced. On the other hand, there are also conflicts between these two documents. To begin with, “El Plan de Aztlan” concentrates more on nationalism and is geared toward men (Chicanos). As far as I can tell, there is no involvement of women in this document. “The Women of La Raza” is clearly geared towards women (Chicanas). Vasquez makes a strong point that the Mexican-American movement shouldn’t only be about liberation of La Raza (like “El Plan de Aztlan” states), but a TOTAL liberation that includes women. Another conflict is that “El Plan de Aztlan” stresses the significance of unity and family, whereas, Vasquez describes a broke family where the women is left to struggle on her own with her children. However, she goes on to say that unity and family is needed in order to achieve liberation and equality.

  6. In both Enriqueta Vasquez’s “The Woman of La Raza” and “El Plan de Aztlán” there are similar connections. Both addressed the concerns for the need to become united. Both address similar goals to address the problems that occur in everyday life, such as food, clothing, and other programs to meet everyday struggles. “El Plan de Aztlán” seems similar to the Black Panther group where they started programs for the community such as daycare and afterschool programs. Both wanted to have control over their communities and to have them be runned by people living in said communities. The importance that Marta Cortera “found” feminism with Mexican roots shows that women fought side by side with the men. It also shows that when the Mexican women receive suffrage all the bad expectations didn’t occur. I feel like some people in the Chicano movement feared that if they address the issues of that the women were bringing up, everything would fall apart. But her “finding” the information about Mexican feminism and how similar beliefs were disproven only merited the idea that Chicana feminism wasn’t going to be some sort of hindrance to the movement.

  7. It was very interesting to read about the fight within the Movimiento because that’s what it seemed like. Chicanas were not being heard and the Movimiento was beginning to take a very patriarchal approach. With this being said it reminded me of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where I remember reading about how the oppressed become the oppressor when they start to gain power, which is what happened as the Chicano movement gain way the Chicanas started to get oppressed by the Chicanos. They began to get critized so much that conflict within the Chicanos arised. Their struggle to get gender equality and racial/ethnic equality began the criticism of being thought as followers of white feminist as well as the questioning of their sexuality. But I loved reading about some of the things they did to resist the oppression. Through their writings they found a voice, even if publishing became an issue, they were able to overcome it. They were able to find a venue and people to support them within the Movimiento like the multiple college newspapers who either published their work or published special editions to highlight the feminist ideal the Chicanas where embracing.

    The Adelita description reminded me of a just recent discovery of mine I came across while looking for the ¡Ya Basta! poster of a brown beret. It is another Rosie the Riveter interpretation but this one has literally an Adelita depicted in the recognizable Rosie the Riveter pose with ¡Si Se Puede! over her head. Both of these images, the ¡Ya Basta! and the ¡Si Se Puede!posters, to me are so empowering as a Chicana because I feel like they give a visual to what Enriqueta Longeaux y Vasquez writes when she says that “looking at the history of the Chicana or Mexican woman, we see that her role has been a very strong one-although a silent one,” (pg.29). You can see the power behind her stance but you can also see her heritage and pride of it. The posters give a visual representation of what a Chicana Feminist could look like but it is not the only way. Since it is not the about the way she dresses or stands that makes a Chicana feminist but it is her strong beliefs in confronting racism and sexism.

  8. For the most part, when I think of the 1960s and 1970s, Chicana feminism is nowhere on my radar. Even still to this day there is such a limited degree of coverage and knowledge about the development of Chicana feminist discourse, sadly proving how underrepresented in mainstream media and politics Mexican-American women still are. These are women who lived and fought for their cause, and the majority of Americans probably have no idea.

    Like other feminist movements of color, the Chicana feminist movement was born from the Chicano Nationalist movement, El Movemiento. Fighting for the ideals of Chicano Nationalism against white oppressors, Chicanas were on the virtual front lines alongside men. Yet even by these revolutionary men they were helping fight oppression, they were repressed. Inundated in Chicano culture is this idea that women are supposed to be like the Virgin Mary: docile, pure, and satisfied with a life of wifehood and motherhood. To many Chicano men and many Chicana women, this was the status quo, this was the culture, and this of all things should not be upset during a nationalist movement. Unsurprisingly, the feminists who had found their strength and the notion of their unlimited potential as humans were not impressed.

    Part of the problem within the movement was even getting to see other people within their culture that they were being oppressed because they were actually capable of so much more than their current standing. Enriqueta Longeaux Vasquez wrote that women had become more or less slaves and unthinking materialists in marriage. Dependent on their husbands, they had nothing to show for themselves, so they then became dependent on objects and adornments to show some level of achievement to the outside world. Chicana women could be smart, strong, and independent, yet trapped in domestic lives they became servants, battered into submission doubly by the sexism inherent in their culture and the racism inherent in American culture.

  9. My idea about the 60s and 70s changed because John F. Kennedy and the Black Nationalist Movement always came to mind but I never thought of the Chicano Movement. That is why Chicanas were able to draw inspiration from Black feminists who suffered from gender oppression and demonstrated that through solidarity more can be done. I wasn’t aware that Patricia Hill Collin’s book Black Feminist Thought really served as a resource for Chicana Feminism and something she discusses in other pieces of work that I recall from another class is the “matrix of oppression” that affects all women of color. It means that women of color must equip their children with tools that help them assimilate into society in order, to gain access to resources for survival but also with tools of resistance because they will face discrimination and injustice.
    National pride and unity are very strong themes in the three readings and especially in El Plan de Aztlán because it’s interesting to learn in Garcia’s reading that there were many internal struggles within the Chicano Movement which I did not know about. I think it was very clever to develop El Plan de Aztlán which I feel is a shout out to the entire Chicano community. It is a good action plan that reinvigorates the movement with a new spirit of liberation for all that was originally lacking that should include men, women, the poor, etc because with La Familia survival is more likely. However women faced oppression from the “gringo” community which has been the oppressor for hundreds of years but the oppressed also became an oppressor. I can now see how in the “The Woman of La Raza” was a response to El Plan de Aztlán because it collectively grouped everyone together and as a result neglected the needs of individuals. Chicano men were expecting Chicana women to sacrifice their personhood for the sake of the movement that is why the phrase “the Chicana woman does not want to be liberated” was proclaimed by men because it did not suit the collective group at the moment (29). All efforts were being geared toward eliminating racial oppression while their women were meant to be the dormant “docile” but women really took agency and momentum from the movements occurring simultaneously and were able to become very crucial members of the Chicano movement.

  10. The 1960′s was a very important time for the civil rights movement. The fights that Blacks had to put up with against white people, law authorities, and the supreme court, during this era has led to the equal rights all minorities experience today. The El plan doesn’t really address women or men specifically, but, it does imply more of a macho expectation from the society. The plan basically implies that the citizens of Aztlan must be strictly about the people, like the institutions musts be uplifting for the people. You can tell that the goal of the plan is to get everyone in Aztlan to have both feet in in terms of having the greatest amount of nationalism for their country. If you don’t then this is where the machoness of the men will come in and force you to have the great nationalism or leave the country. The role of the women would be to support the men, whether it is their brother, son, husband, cousin, or friend. Even if the women don’t agree with the harsh ways the might might deal with someone who isn’t showing nationalism, it seems like the women would have to keep their opinions silent and just support the men.